Study Series in John's Gospel

The Identifying Marks of Those in the True Vine

Study Series: The Gospel of John

Larger Context: The Identifying Marks of Those in the True Vine

This Study: The Marks of True Believers (John 15:1-8)

The Revelation of His Promise (John 15:1-8

Murray McLellan

The Concept of the Vine

 Old Covenant Vine = Israel

In the Old Testament, the vine is a common symbol for Israel, the covenant people of God. Psalm 80:8-16; Isa. 5:1-7 (see also Isa. 27:2-6; Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ezek. 15:1-8; 17:1-10; 19:10- 14; Hosea 10:1-2). In all these images Israel’s failure to produce good fruit is emphasized.

Psalms 80:8-16 ESV
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved!
8 You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
9 You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
10 The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches.
11 It sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
12 Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
13 The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
14 Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
15 the stock that your right hand planted,
and for the son whom you made strong for yourself.
16 They have burned it with fire; they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of your face.

 New Covenant Vine = Jesus Christ

Jesus is the true vine. Israel was only a temporary picture or type. Jesus is the true vine or true Israel in the same way as He is the true temple (2:19-22), the true manna (6:30-66), the true shepherd (10:1-18) etc. Jesus is the better!

The Vinedresser’s Two Actions

1. Cutting off fruitless branches to be burned

Israel is cut off, for they are not the true people of God. Rom. 9:6-7 (see also Matt. 21:33-45).

Illustrated in Judas Iscariot, who is not a true Israelite. He is not clean. Jn. 15:3; 13:10-11.

This is not illustrating “higher-life” teaching. The fruitless branches are unbelievers who go to hell. To abide in Christ means simply to be a believer. On your worst day, if you are a believer you are abiding.

2. Pruning fruit-bearing branches to produce more fruit

The Church of Jesus Christ is the true people of God who have received life in Christ. Gal. 3:29 The essence of Christianity is the believer’s union with Christ, apart from whom they can do nothing.

The Father prunes every fruit-bearing branch so it will be even more fruitful. God uses all sorts of things to cause us to grow. James 1:2-4, Heb. 12:10

How wonderful to realize that every trial, problem, and suffering is purposeful and lovingly designed by God for good! He knows what he is doing as the gardener and this provides us with much comfort.

The Marks of True Believers

1. Bearing fruit

Salvation is by grace through faith. We cannot earn a right standing before a holy God by any number of good works. Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 3:28

But, we do show that God has saved us when we do good works. If there is no fruit in your life, then Jesus didn’t die for you. Philippians 2:12-13, James 2:24

2. Perseverance

Warning passages are very helpful to the church because they force a response. The response demonstrates if the person desires to obey Jesus Christ no matter what the cost. A true believer will respond in obedience. Hebrews 10:36-39, 1 John 2:4-6

Believers will take to heart the warnings that are given and will respond in godly repentance if necessary. Matthew 18:15-20, (see also 2 Corinthians 7:8-13)

A true believer’s fruit-bearing and perseverance is guaranteed, for the fruitfulness of believers is one of the ways the Son glorifies His Father. Let us press on for His glory!

~ Murray

About Murray McLellan
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.
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